A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Don't Let Go is a thriller with sci-fi elements about a teenage girl named Ashley (Storm Reid) and her uncle Jack (David Oyelowo), who somehow gain the ability to talk to each other during different moments in time after she and her parents are mysteriously murdered. Expect violence and death, with multiple views of the same awful incident unfolding in real time, as well as a gory crime scene and graphic photos. Blood spatters and pools, and there's gore on the back of one character's head after he's been shot. Characters are also shot on-screen (the camera usually but doesn't always cut away at the moment of impact), including a teen girl who cowers, terrified, in her bedroom before being killed. Viewers see her dead body, but her face is usually obscured, and there's no gore. Drugs are an element of the plot, though no one is shown using them. Characters drink in times of stress, and one is said to have a drinking/drug problem. Language isn't frequent but includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. A black family anchors this drama, and a black teen girl is the heroine, which is relatively rare for thrillers. Ashley is a strong, brave character, as is Jack, and they demonstrate great teamwork, but we don't get to know much about their lives before or after the movie's events, nor are other characters fleshed out.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
DON'T LET GO is set in Los Angeles, where teenager Ashley (Storm Reid) relies on her steady-handed police officer uncle Jack (David Oyelowo) to help her when her troubled family lets her down. But then Jack gets a terrified phone call from Ashley and finds the whole family murdered in their home. Desperate to discover what happened -- and why -- Jack plunges into an investigation that gets extremely complicated, fast, when he gets an otherworldly phone call: It's Ashley, calling from the past, before her murder. Now it's up to Jack and Ashley to change her timeline and forestall her doom.
Is it any good?
Reid and Oyelowo deliver fantastic performances, but the movie's cool sci-fi premise is mostly squandered with blah visuals and an undercooked police corruption subplot. The best part of Don't Let Go is the connection between Jack and Ashley and Jack's quickly mounting terror as he gets his strange phone call from beyond and starts scrambling to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Unfortunately, the way that puzzle comes together is far less satisfying. The movie spends almost no time depicting the relationship between Jack and Ashley's dad/Jack's troubled brother (Brian Tyree Henry) or between Ashley and her parents, so the murders -- which should be the most horrifying event in the movie -- lack a certain dramatic weight. And it's definitely hard to figure out (and even harder to care) just why they were killed, though viewers will hazily understand it has something to do with betrayal and a white-powder drug.
Meanwhile, the film seems to have plenty of time to watch Ashley pedaling around on her bicycle (the L.A. scenery is nice and occasionally atmospheric, but when it crowds out plot, viewers might wonder why) and for the phone calls between her and Jack. Oyelowo and Reid act up a storm (get it?) during these scenes, and it's refreshing to see a thriller that acknowledges how much smartphones have changed cinematic stakes -- it sure is hard to believably strand a movie character these days -- and uses them as an integral element in the plot. But it's also frustrating that for characters who rely so much on their phones to communicate, Jack and Ashley don't seem to know how to use them. Really, they resort to communicating on napkins and with gumballs rather than by snapping pictures of clues and proof for each other to find? It feels not-thought-out, as does much of this featherweight thriller.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it would be like to be able to communicate with the past or go back and change it, like in Don't Let Go. What would you change? Why? Do you think it would change the person you are today?
What is science fiction, exactly? Which aspects of Don't Let Go conform with traditional elements of science fiction? What's the difference between fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural plots? Which genre does Don't Let Go best match? Do the movie's otherworldly parts seem realistic? Are they supposed to?
- In theaters: August 30, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 26, 2019
- Cast: David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Brian Tyree Henry, Alfred Molina
- Director: Jacob Estes
- Studio: OTL Releasing
- Genre: Thriller
- Character strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, bloody images, and language
- Last updated: November 25, 2019
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